The aesthetic of Wes Anderson can be seen from miles away. His directing style is delicate but deliberate, and his eye for color and set design is undeniable. Quirky character after quirky character, they all remain strangely original. Each costume seems to be tailored to their personalities, and the extraordinary little performances we experience in each film feel more like reading a storybook than watching an actual movie. So here are the best Wes Anderson movies ranked.
Watch: Wes Anderson & the Making of Bottle Rocket
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Best Wes Anderson Movies Ranked
9. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
This film had some promise with leads Adrian Brody, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson. It follows these three estranged brothers who, after their father dies, trek across India hoping to bond. It’s rare for a Wes Anderson film, but it comes across slightly tone deaf.
The self-absorption and privileged characters don’t appear to be just character traits but they carry over to the film's overall lack of self-awareness. The scenery is, of course, beautiful, and the acting from these three is always on point, but it didn’t quite give us the emotional depth we experience from many of his other films.
Early Wes Anderson Movies
8. Bottle Rocket (1996)
A pretty incredible feat for a debut film. Even though this was his first film and it’s not nearly as stylized as what comes later, Bottle Rocket holds a few Anderson quirks, working toward his signature aesthetic examining mental illness with detailed plans gone wrong.
It’s about three friends who commit to a life of crime but just aren’t able to pull it off. It’s witty and the dialogue is punchy enough. Originally a short film, we’re glad it became a feature, not only introducing the industry to Wes but to Owen and Luke Wilson as well.
Best Wes Anderson Movies Animation
7. Isle of Dogs (2018)
This Wes Anderson film feels like more of an experience than a movie. It has to be one of his strangest, obsessively intricate films to date, but I say that in the nicest way possible. It’s set in futuristic Japan, following a pack of dogs who help a young boy named Atari find his own dog after he is banished to “Trash Island,” because of an apparent canine flu outbreak.
The film teeters between Japanese appreciation and appropriation which still has some critics divided, but all-in-all, it is a pure feat of greatness for stop motion animation and in the Wes Anderson filmography.
Wes Anderson Filmography Ranked
6. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Wes' version of Fantastic Mr. Fox feels more like it’s meant for adults than kids, similar to how Roald Dahl wrote his books. And even though it differs from the actual children’s story, he manages to somewhat catch Dahl’s tone in a world that is very much Andersonian.
Mr. Fox and his wife live a luxurious countryside life. But when Mr. Fox raids his human neighbor’s farm and gives in to his animalistic desires, he puts he and his wife in harm's way. It’s a fun film with a little perverse humor that keeps it interesting for any age and it did make our list of the best animated movies of all time.
Ranking Wes Anderson Films
Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is not necessarily a critic’s choice but it’s no surprise it has developed quite the cult following. Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett’s presence elevates the film and the visuals are so enchanting with production design second to none.
The deadpan comedic voice of Bill Murray’s character juxtaposed with him as a full-blown sea explorer is hysterically existential.
List of Wes Anderson Movies Ranked
4. Rushmore (1998)
The quirkiest coming-of-age movie ever made, and it couldn’t have been made by anyone else. Anderson gives us Jason Schwartzman (in one of his best roles) as sophomore, Max Fisher. Fisher falls in love with his teacher, ending up in a strange love triangle with Bill Murray’s character.
The montage of extracurricular activities displaying Max’s absolute perfectionism is also a technical and story-level feat. Bill Murray’s performance takes it all home.
Wes Anderson Movies Ranked
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
The Grand Budapest Hotel follows a 17-actor ensemble. Monsieur Gustave, a respected concierge of a mountainside resort is framed for murder. He and his bellboy embark on a journey for a famous Renaissance painting while hotel guests cause some rather odd commotion.
If the color palette and costumes alone weren’t enough to celebrate this film, the creation of an entirely fictional hotel may take the cake. This movie is so precise in its design, cinematography and characters, it’s no wonder this was his first Academy Award nomination.
Wes Anderson Films Ranked
2. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
The year was 2012. Wes Anderson made a film about the residents of New Penzance, a fictional island off the coast of New England in 1965.
And it was amazing.
Twelve-year-olds Sam and Suzy fall in love and decide to run away together. But a dangerous storm is approaching and an interesting crew of adults must quickly find them.
A simple plot with great acting and near perfect execution, it earns its keep very high on this list of Wes Anderson movies. Young leads Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward deliver a great medley of humor, romance, and naïveté.
The movie’s side characters boast Ed Norton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, and Bob Balaban as the wonderfully weird narrator.
Best Wes Anderson Movies
1. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
The Royal Tenenbaums introduces us to our favorite dysfunctional family with even better outfits. If the writing wasn’t such a treat, the cast alone would have carried the film. Starring Bill Murray, Gene Hackman, Danny Glover, Anjelica Huston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, and Luke Wilson, the story follows the lives of three siblings. Their success as children is only outshined by their even bigger failures in adulthood.
This is the film that solidified Wes Anderson's directing style but also found the perfect balance between style and substance. Where his work after this tends to lean more towards aesthetics, this film is grounded in the characters. The ensemble is perfectly-cast and the tone is just as bitter as it is whimsical.
Wes Anderson's style explained
Take a deep dive into Anderson’s aesthetic, cinematography, and directing style with examples from each one of these movies. His incredibly stylized technique is all his own but there are a few filmmakers he considers to be his biggest influences.